By Ted Timmins, Lead Designer – Fable Heroes
Last week I returned back from the annual Microsoft Xbox 360 Spring Showcase event in San Francisco, California. The Spring Showcase is an event where 300 journalists fly in from all over the world to play the latest and greatest Xbox 360 games. It’s primarily a 1st party event (i.e. Microsoft exclusive titles), and this year was a BIG year for the Xbox Live Arcade platform. I was there to represent the Fable Heroes team, as this event was to be both Fable Heroes’ first reveal and showing. Fable Heroes was present on the show floor itself, right next to the main entrance, so on the first morning it was great watching journalists walking in and taking a double take at the first game they saw. Somehow Fable Heroes had managed to stay a secret for over a year, and as everyone knows – secrets are hard to keep in this industry!
Each day at the Spring Showcase was really intense. It started at 9am, and ran through to just after 8pm. There was a huge buzz around the Fable Heroes booth all day long, and with a queue of journalists that never went away it made it tough to even find time to have something to eat! The one thing that was unanimous between all journalists was that they were excited by the prospect of a “Creative Day” game coming from Lionhead that was supported by Lionhead and Microsoft, but given the freedom to create what the team wanted to create. For those that might not have heard of “Creative Day”, I’ll take this opportunity to explain…
Creative Day is an event that now happens annually at Lionhead whereby people can get together during 2 days of work hours to create *something*. That something could be a presentation on the next ‘big thing’, it could be a design document for a new game, or in our case – even a prototype of a new video game. Myself and Jon Eckersley (Artist) were in the canteen in December of 2010 idly discussing what to do for Creative Day. We pitched some ideas back and forth to each other, when Jon said – “What if Gauntlet met Fable?” – and we’ve been running with that idea ever since! We grabbed some other staff (Rob Tatnell – FX Artist, Alex Dowdeswell – Programmer, Mike Green – Level Designer, and Don Williamson – Engine Programmer) and pitched the idea to them. Before we knew it, the 6 of us were working late nights and weekends on a Gauntlet / Fable smash ‘em up! It was a really exciting time, and by the Christmas holiday of 2010, our Creative Day demo was ready and had already begun taking on a personality of its own!
When we returned to work in January, Creative Day had to be moved by 2 months – but our demo was ready. Instead of sitting by waiting, we all got together and decided to pitch the idea to Josh Atkins, who at the time was the Design Director of Fable. Suffice to say, he really liked what he saw! So much so, that almost immediately we gave the same demo to Louise Murray (Head of Fable franchise). Louise reacted in the same way as Josh, and before we knew it, she had bought Peter Molyneux into the room and we were doing the demo for the 3rd time. At the end of the demo, they all congratulated us on our Creative Day work and said not to get our hopes up, but that the 3 of them would discuss what they saw and went off to talk about it. We knew that regardless of the outcome, we had done something none of us had ever thought possible, demo a video game idea to the Senior Management at Lionhead – so, being typically British, we all went to the pub to celebrate.
A few days later, Louise emailed us to say that they would like to green light the project! When a project becomes green lit, it means that it is go, go, GO! With it comes a small team, and in our case even our own little office! Jennifer Clixby (Producer) joined the team to manage the project, and before we knew it we were making our very own video game with a small team of around 15 people. Fast forward one year, and we’re at the Spring Showcase event ready to demo the game for the first time…
This brings us right back to last week at Spring Showcase! The background information around the Creative Day was of real interest to the journalists that we spoke to, with Develop magazine going so far as saying; “Allowing a five-man team at Lionhead to go on and build something they conceived themselves is too rare a design practice in this industry”. As we were telling the journalists about the making of the game, they were also really won over by just how fun Fable Heroes is to play. From the beginning of development, we were always putting ‘fun’ over everything else, and trying to think of as many ways as possible to give the player a really enjoyable time when playing Fable Heroes. This is what inspired things like; Powerups, where you can transform into a giant puppet or perhaps get a double speed boost, Big Head Mode (because every game should have one!), the ability to kick smaller enemies (because kicking is just as fun as smashing!) and much more. We really wanted to provide gamers with a modern-day experience but based on retro gaming principles, and this went down really well.
Each journalist left the Fable Heroes booth with a huge smile, and our colourful art style and the ability to play as your favourite Fable “heroes” (see what we did there? ) played a big role in the smiles on people’s faces. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be revealing the rest of our playable puppet line-up for Fable Heroes when it’s released later this year. There are some really memorable characters that we’ve selected from across the Fable universe, as we figured that as we’re such huge Fable fans ourselves – if we love them, hopefully you’ll love them too! Remember, you can also unlock more puppets from Fable: The Journey later this year, and you can transfer your gold across to give yourself a head start in the Fable: The Journey leveling up system!
So after 2 intense days of talking non-stop, eating very little and playing lots and lots of Fable Heroes, I returned back to the office. It was then a nervous 72 hours for the team waiting for the first press previews to go live. You can’t help but second guess yourself; “did they have as much fun as they looked like they were having?!”, “should we have shown off more?!”. When the press previews went live, nothing could have prepared us for just how positive every single article was. The game was loved by everyone that played it, with statements going as far as saying that Fable Heroes was the “highlight of the show”! When you’re at the same event as such big games as Halo 4 and Forza, this is BIG news, and the entire Fable Heroes team is overjoyed at just how much fun people were having.
We’re now bug fixing, polishing and balancing Fable Heroes ready for launch a little later this year. We’ll be announcing a release date soon, so keep your eyes peeled. Hopefully we’ll also have an opportunity to do more blogs over the next couple of months, and don’t forget to check out our Facebook and Twitter pages in the meantime;
I’ll sign off with a big thank you to all the Fable fans for supporting us over the years. Fable Heroes was made for you guys, so please do get in touch and keep an eye out for future (but currently top secret!) announcements!
Press Previews of Fable Heroes at Spring Showcase 2012;